Love chips but hate the number of calories in a portion? Air fryers – sometimes called health fryers – sit on your kitchen worktop, plug into the mains and cook using hot air.
This means that you can cook most food without any oil (though chips sometimes need a tbsp to ensure they crisp up). They are a healthier option than deep-fat fryers, or even homemade chips cooked in oil in the oven. They have a removable pan and usually a separate basket too, which you put your food in.
But if you just think of an air fryer as a healthy alternative to a deep-fat fryer, you won’t be getting the most out of it. An air fryer is effectively a mini oven and you can cook all sorts of different dishes in it, from popcorn chicken to cauliflower ‘wings’, air fryer doughnuts and kale crisps.
Most come with air fryer recipes for making full meals including burgers and curry. They’re smaller than an oven, they’re portable and usually quicker, saving fuel costs. If versatility is what you’re after, some offer baking, roasting, dehydrating and grilling functions too.
We cooked homemade chips in all the machines we tested among other recipes, awarded them star ratings against standardised criteria and added ‘best for’ labels to help you find the best air fryer for your home and budget. Only the best from the bunch made it into our best-list below.
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Jump to section:
- How to choose the best air fryer
- What types of air fryers are there?
- Best air fryer at a glance
- The best air fryer to buy in 2021
- Why buy an air fryer?
- Is air frying healthy?
- How we tested air fryers
- What to consider when buying an air fryer
Air fryers differ in size and versatility so the choosing the best one for you will depend on a few key elements. For example, consider what you’ll most likely be cooking in it, how many you’re cooking for and how much space you have in the kitchen.
If it’s simply a healthier, more efficient method of cooking chips that you’re after, you can narrow your search down to one without bells and whistles and save some pennies on a machine that does the core function well. Watch out for those that will require you to part-boil the cut potatoes prior to crisping – air fryers worth having should be able to fully-cook chips on their own.
More sophisticated models will offer multiple functions like the ability to bake, roast, dehydrate, grill and reheat food.
The circulated hot air from inside these fryers gets released from fans often at the back of the air fryer, which means they can require a lot of room around them for safe use. Style and aesthetics on a countertop are also important.
Firstly, the taller fryers such as the Philips and Ninja feature a main unit with heating elements and fans. These had slide-out baskets or trays that slotted into place inside. Because they tend to have a smaller cooking area than oven-style fryers, even results were more likely if the cooking was paused occasionally to rearrange or toss the food around. Some will cut out automatically when you do this, some will need to be paused if you want accurate timings.
Secondly, there were ‘mini oven’ types, such as Sage and Tower, using convection or fan technology to cook food on flat, slide-in trays.
As well as roasting, their extra air frying functions circulate hot air around the food for more efficient crisping. These took up the space of an average-sized microwave.
Thirdly, the Tefal model we looked at has an interior paddle; its stirring motion keeping the food moving around a doughnut shaped tray. Unlike ‘basket’ models, the oil stayed in the pan rather than draining away, so sauces, rice, even casserole-type recipes could be used here.
- Best blow-out multifunctional air fryer: Ninja Foodi MAX Health Grill & Air Fryer, £199.99
- Best looking air fryer for rotisserie chicken: Princess Air Fryer & Dehydrator, £169.99
- Best large-capacity air fryer for small kitchens: Instant Vortex Plus 6-in-1 Air Fryer, £119.99
- Best large capacity air fryer for affordability: Cosori Pro 5.5-litre air fryer, £109.99
- Best multi-tasking air fryer: Sage the Smart Oven air fryer, £329.95
- Best air fryer for roasting chicken: Tower Vortex 5-in-1 digital air fryer, £119.19
- Best air fryer for families: Philips Avance air fryer XXL, £189.99
- Best air fryer for versatility: Tefal ActiFry Genius 2-in-1 air fryer, £269.99
- Best air fryer for making chips: Ninja air fryer, £199.19
- Best air fryer for quietness: Salter EK2819 XL digital hot air fryer, £139.99
Ninja Foodi MAX Health Grill & Air Fryer – Star Buy
Best blow-out multifunctional air fryer
- Zero-oil air crisping
- Leave-in digital cooking probe
- Recipe booklet catering for gluten-free, diary free, keto and vegetarian diets
- Hot underneath
- Chunky footprint
Star rating: 5/5
This is both a pricey and chunky investment purchase that looks more like a pizza oven than an air fryer. However, for the quality of components and cooking results it’s great value for money offering roast, bake, grill and dehydrate functions in addition to air frying.
You always get a good recipe booklet with Ninja products. The one accompanying this product focusses on its grill and air frying features but there’s a comprehensive cooking guide for everything in the box. It’s particularly adapted for roasting meat joints. The integrated digital thermometer meant the gadget alerted us when the whole chicken was full cooked, preventing it from being over-done.
Requiring zero oil, the chips were well-sealed and soft inside. Its grill function didn’t disappoint when it came to grid cooking and if you like a traybake, cakes are ready in 25 minutes. Read our full Ninja Foodi MAX Health Grill & Air Fryer review.
Instant Vortex Plus 6-in-1 Air Fryer
- Available from Instant (£119.19)
Best large-capacity air fryer for small kitchens
- Dishwasher-safe cooking tray
- Shows fingerprints easily
- Vague cooking guidance
Star rating: 4/5
If you’re cooking for a crowd or like to make enough for left-overs, the Instant’s 5.7L capacity basket is a practical size for 1kg fries or a 1.8kg chicken and offers roast, bake, reheat, dehydrate and grill functions in addition to air frying.
Hot air gets released from from the top and the base, rather than just the back meaning it only needs 13cm around it for safe use. Most need 30-60cm, so if you have shallow countertops or a crowded kitchen, the Instant will make a good large-capacity model to keep out of the cupboard long-term.
Read our full Instant Vortex Plus 6-in-1 Air Fryer review
Princess Air Fryer & Dehydrator
Best looking air fryer for rotisserie chicken
- Dishwasher-safe parts
- Rotisserie function
- Glass panel frontage
- Internal light
- Slow at air frying chips
- No guide to prepping chickens for rotisserie
Star rating: 4/5
The rotisserie chicken feature on this air fryer is something of a crowd-pleaser. The model’s instructions would be improved by offing more guidance on how to prep and load the chicken but once in and thanks to its interior light, watching the contents turn become mesmeric.
The end result was juicily cooked through and evenly golden like those you buy from a supermarket. The chip basket performed less well, taking two runs of the preset function to cook through fully. But once done they were well-sealed, nicely crisp and tasty.
You can also leave it to do its thing when set whilst you potter around the kitchen, rather than the ingredients needing attention every 10-minutes. With all removable elements dish-washer safe and an additional dehydrator function, this is a relatively faff-free air fryer that looks good on the counter-top. Read our full Princess air fryer and dehydrator review.
Cosori Pro 5.5-litre Air Fryer
Best large capacity air fryer for affordability
- Dishwasher-safe components
- BPA-free and PFOA-free
- Very hot air released out of one vent at the top
Star rating: 4.5/5
The Cosori was one of the best-looking air fryers we tested. Its boxy, matte design is sleek enough to be left out on the countertop. But luckily it’s not just style over substance – this model has 11 preset options, a 5.5-litre capacity which cooked four good portions of fries in one go and a 1.8kg chicken easily with room around it. If you’re going for a 2.7kg chicken, we’d recommend spatch-cocking it before adding to the basket due to the relatively shallow depth of the trays.
The model enthusiastically reminds you to shake its contents during cooking so even if your kitchen is a busy one, you’re unlikely to miss its reminders. When on manual function, the temperatures can be adapted from 75 degrees for lower, slower cooking and timings are adjustable from 1-60 minutes.
Chips for two people were evenly browned using the preset having been pre-tossed in 1 tbsp of oil, although they were not super crisp. Quantities for four took two-rounds of preset cooking. The baskets were thrown in the dishwasher for easy clean-up – a great benefit. Read our full Cosori Pro 5.5-litre air fryer review.
Sage the Smart Oven™Air Fryer – Star Buy
Best multi-tasking air fryer
- Large capacity
- Most preset options
Star rating: 5/5
Think of this smart little stainless steel appliance as a new permanent fixture in the kitchen, and watch as you start using it in place of your main oven more and more.
It would be a lifesaver for Christmas and parties, a winner for small kitchens, or a good option for Aga and range cooker owners who don’t want to ‘fire up the beast’ for the sake of a chicken kiev.
Offering pre-sets and functions that can tackle anything from a crumpet or chips to slow-cooked casseroles, it’s so much more than an air fryer.
Sage uses technology that combines a supercharged convection heater with air frying to really crisp things up. This reaches one of the hottest settings of any of the models we look at here, with a top temperature of 230 degrees, making for chip perfection.
As with the full Sage range, a premium price delivers a top-notch product, and the stainless steel finish, nicely-weighted door and inner trays make this a quality piece that’s worth the money. Read our full Sage Smart Oven air fryer review.
Tower Vortex 2000W 11l 5-in-1 digital air fryer oven
Best air fryer for roasting chicken
- More versatile than a basket fryer
- Rotisserie function
- Can be tricky to clean
Star rating: 3.5/5
An oven-style air fryer, you can stack three separate trays of food to air fry.
Chips, pizza and wedges worked out well in this model, with a good even finish and no cool spots. As with a conventional oven, the highest shelf was hottest, so we did do a bit of moving around as things cooked, but it was easy to check on their progress thanks to the large viewing window and interior light.
Our favourite function was the rotisserie, which turned a small chicken into a beautifully juicy and crisp centrepiece for a summer salad in around 50 minutes.
There may have been straws drawn to decide who would clean it afterwards, but we would definitely use it again, perhaps adding some foil to the bottom pan for easier clean-up. Read our full Tower Vortex 2000W 11l 5-in-1 digital air fryer oven review.
Philips Avance air fryer XXL
Best air fryer for families
- Large basket capacity
- Easy to use controls
- Large footprint
Star rating: 4.5/5
The Philips family of air fryers have long been favourites in the UK market – and if you’re after a machine for straightforward frying, this is hard to beat.
It has a huge basket – in fact, a small chicken will fit in there and cook beautifully, even with the juices draining away into the bottom of the pan.
It’s definitely the pick of the bunch if you want power, speed and enough room to get a family dinner on the table quickly.
The controls are intuitive, with a digital dial adjusting temperature and timings, and a range of pre-sets that make it easy to use.
Since this is a basket drawer-style fryer, it’s wise to check the contents during the cook and move things around with tongs to ensure it cooks evenly.
Quiet, powerful and easy to use, this was one of our top air fryer choices. Read our full review of the Philips Avance air fryer XXL.
Tefal ActiFry Genius XL 2-in-1 air fryer
Best air fryer for versatility
Pros: Versatile multi-dish cooking
Cons: Takes a lot of space up on the countertop
Star rating: 4.5/5
The distinctive dome of the Tefal ActiFry has evolved into this multi-level cooker, which can be programmed to remind you when to add different menu components.
Other fryers have baskets that allow the fat to drain away – not this one. Any oil will collect on the doughnut-shaped tray at the bottom, with a central paddle that turns, to ensure food is slowly coated in the oil.
You can get amazingly good results with very little oil, so it’s still far healthier than deep frying or even baking on a sheet in the oven, where more fat is needed to cover the surface.
Another container for the likes of meat or fragile fish fillets can then be added over the central stalk, to double up cooking space. And you can see it all through a giant window so don’t have to lose heat by opening the lid to check on progress.
Although it took a bit of exploration with the manual, the pre-sets and settings are easy to use when you get the hang of the touch controls. Read our full review of the Tefal Genius ActiFry 2-in-1 air fryer.
Ninja air fryer AF100UK
Best air fryer for making chips
Pros: Sturdy build quality, dehydrating function
Cons: No automatic pause when checking cooking, recipe card cooking times can take too long
Star rating: 4/5
The Ninja looks good on the worktop with its two-tone style – and the good looks matched its performance, with this being an air fryer that can reach 240 degrees for a super-crisp finish on any given dish.
This model can also dehydrate herbs and fruit, and even make beef jerky if you’re feeling adventurous.
Powerful and quiet, this produced some of the best chips in our testing, thanks to the vented basket in the base which seemed to allow more chips to crisp up.
We did, as usual, do a bit of shaking and rearranging to ensure even cooking, but annoyingly the digital timer continued to count down. Other models pause automatically, which helps if you want to be exact with timings.
Tthis is a great air fryer, though, and as with every machine here, you’ll soon get to know its perfect timings – and they’re often not what the booklet tells you. Read our full review of the Ninja air fryer AF100UK.
Salter EK2819 XL digital hot air fryer
Best air fryer for quietness
We liked the chunky looks and touch controls of this Salter model, which comes with a full range of pre-settings and a useful safety cut-off function.
The glossy casing shows marks easily, and the slanted top, with the touch controls, need wiping down often, but the inner basket itself was very easy to keep clean, with food and residue wiping away easily from its non-stick coating.
What we didn’t like was the beeping sounds it made when we were setting the timings, but the actual cooking was impressively quiet, with noise levels comparative to a cooling fan on a low setting. Read our full review of the Salter EK2819 digital hot air fryer.
In a word: convenience. Like any kitchen gadget, you want something that’s going to make life simpler, and there’s no doubt that frying and baking conventionally can be messy, smelly or even dangerous.
Using an air fryer to bake, roast and fry will speed up the process, could potentially cut calories and save money as you won’t have to use a larger oven for smaller portions and side dishes.
Think of air fryers as mini ovens that can tackle almost anything you’d put in a conventional oven or deep fat fryer. They’re not just for chips – you can bake, roast, and even dehydrate ingredients, too.
In comparison to deep-fat frying, air frying is a healthier alternative, since using convection cooking rather than oil means less fat in the finished food, which in turn means fewer calories. However, air frying does have some negatives, so it should be considered as part of a balanced diet. Read more about the health credentials of air fryers in our guide – is air frying healthy?
What is the first thing you think of when you consider air fryers? Chips, of course, so our homemade fries test was crucial.
The key to crisp fries was to peel and soak the potatoes in cold water for half an hour to remove starch, before drying thoroughly. We used Maris Piper potatoes for all.
We looked at the manuals for each model and followed their directions for cooking temperature, time and the quantity of oil needed. If the type of oil wasn’t specified them we used vegetable.
Anything from the size of the cut to the variety of potato can make a difference here, so it’s always good to gauge things halfway through the time. But for the purpose of the test, we shook ingredients only when prompted too and scored the appliance based on its performance.
We tested the air fryers using set criteria and scored each one on the following core areas out of five. The average of all determined the overall star rating they achieved:
Quality of food
To ensure fairness, we initially cooked chips in every fryer we tested. We looked at how evenly they ‘fried’ and whether they were brown and crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
Ease of use
No-one wants to resort to a YouTube video to work out how to use a new gadget. We looked for fryers with clear, simple instructions, so we could get them out of the box and cooking our dinner as quickly as possible. Fryers also scored highly if the icons or control buttons were easy to use and intuitive.
Value for money
Some of our cheaper fryers made excellent fries without a big price tag. We looked at whether the fryers were worth the price.
Ease of cleaning
Think of your individual requirements before investing. You may want to think about the following:
Manual or digital
The simplest air fryers come with manual knobs that you twist to set the time and temperature. You may prefer a digital version, where you press buttons to set this, and can see the remaining time digitally displayed.
Choice of pre-set programmes
Do you like to choose your own temperature and how long to cook things for, or would you prefer to leave all that to the machine? Some of our fryers had up to nine pre-set programmes for popular foods like chips and, bizarrely, shrimps.
It took between 17 and 30 minutes to cook chips in our samples, so this might be a factor. Some models need preheating, but only for a few minutes (much less than an oven).
Always check the size as the capacity varies enormously – important if you’re feeding the masses or just want dinner for one. But bigger isn’t always better. Some take up more space on the kitchen surface and if you’re going to keep it in a cupboard, check the dimensions, some are sizeable beasts.
Some models have a see-through lid so you can glance in and check your chips are browning well. With others, you have to open the basket to check, stopping the machine. The transparent ones tend to be a feature on more expensive machines, so you need to decide how important this is to you.
With most air fryers, you need to shake your chips halfway through cooking (or more often if you want to see how they are getting on). Some fryers have clever devices built in to turn the food for you. Again, these tend to be the more expensive models, but this could a factor to consider if you want to go off and leave your dinner to cook itself.
You’ll need to wash the basket and pan after use. Some need to be hand-washed, while others are dishwasher-proof. (The main parts of the machine should just be wiped with a cloth.)
Air fryers vary hugely in price – our tested models varied from £39.99 to £300.
This review was last updated in May 2021. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.